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Filart, Ateneo edge UP in gripping battle

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Clarence Filart and the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Shuttlers outlasted the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 3–2, to secure the third seed and get the psychological advantage heading to their rematch on Wednesday, last Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.

The veterans of the Maroons were in full force in the lineup for this important tie in all their three singles matches. Miggy Leonardo started the day on a high note for UP after dismantling Ateneo’s Hanz Bernardo in two consecutive games. After a tight start, Leonardo nosed out Bernardo to lead 11–10 in the break. Two consecutive points from Ateneo pushed them to the lead at 15–13, before UP romped off with six unanswered points to get to game point and eventually close out the game. Leonardo took the first frame, 21–16. The fourth-year Maroon continued his momentum in the following game and led by seven points at the interval, 11–4. The huge lead proved to be enough as UP took the game and the match, 21–12.

Another senior took the court for UP as Jon Masongsong took the courts against Jan Mangubat. Nonetheless, it was the rookie Mangubat who pulled off the win in three games over his senior counterpart. Masongsong was the one who dictated the first game and took the lead for his team. The Fighting Maroons captain turned a two-point deficit at the interval to a huge five-point lead, 19–14, after surviving a tight start at the early part of the frame. Masongsong made sure to take the game in the next three rallies, 21–15. It was another close battle at the beginning of the following frame, before Mangubat went ahead again into the break, 11–8. This time, the Ateneo newbie waylaid his opponent and led by as much as seven, 17–10. UP kept it close at 14–17, but Mangubat would not be denied of tying the match, 21–15. The deciding game was no different as Mangubat and Masongsong both knew the implication of this crucial match. The two warriors fought toe-to-toe again at the start of the final frame, but it was the UP skipper who went with the lead this time prior to the court change. From this point, Mangubat slowly crept back into the game and wrestled the control. Masongsong tried to answer, but that twin two-point binges from Mangubat was enough for him to level the tie at one match apiece, 21–18.

Bernardo bounced back big time in the first doubles when he partnered with Carlo Remo and dislodged the struggling duo of CK Clemente and Wakee Deato in just two games. The Blue Shuttlers went ahead at 9–4, before UP made their run to level the game. Two straight points gave Clemente and Deato the lead at the break, 11–10. The exchange of points continued even after the interval but Bernardo and Remo limited their opponents to single points to get to the game point, 20–15. The Maroons tried to salvage the frame with three consecutive points, 18–20. Nonethless, Ateneo took the frame at the following rally. Banking on their solid play in the following game, the Ateneans never looked back against UP. Two four-point binges at the start of the game and another to end the match was the key for Bernardo and Remo to wrestle the lead for the Loyola Heights squad, 21–13.

With the tie at stake, Vinci Manuel and Betong Pineda again attempted to play the hero’s role as they forced a deciding match after upending Patrick Gecosala and Fides Bagasbas. The two pairs figured in a tight start at the first game with UP heading into the interval with an 11–9 advantage. After the ceasefire, Gecosala and Bagasbas wrestled the lead, but Manuel and Pineda kept it close. Ateneo took a slim 18–17 lead after all these exchanges, before UP cruised to four straight points to take the game, 21–18. It was a different story in the second frame, as the Maroons got their groove on. Gecosala and Bagasbas cut the deficit to one, 10–11, before UP took control of the game. A 5–0 run by Manuel and Pineda stopped this Ateneo run and levelled the tie, 21–14.

As what he was doing all-season long, Ateneo Team Captain Clarence Filart used his length and smart play, this time against another UP veteran Jojo Malelang in the first game of the deciding singles match. Filart started the opening frame strong with a 5–1 lead, fended off the challenge of Malelang, and ended up on top, 11–9, at the interval. The Maroon tried to keep the match close, but the Atenean took the game point after scoring two straight, 20–15. Malelang changed the pace of the play and strung three consecutive points to attempt a comeback before Filart closed the game with a well-placed shot. The second game was a similar story, but it was Malelang who kicked off the frame with a huge run. Three straight points after the break gave UP a 14–10 advantage. Filart went to within two of Malelang, but the Maroon closed it out and levelled the match and forced a winner-take-all final game, 21–16. The Ateneo skipper left no tables unturned in the third game and mounted a huge 11–6 advantage heading to the court change. After Malelang cut the margin to three, 9–12, Filart romped to mount the biggest lead of the match at nine, 18–9. UP retaliated again and kept it close, but Filart went just two points away from taking the victory for Ateneo, 19–13. However, just when the Blue Shuttler felt it is in the bag with that huge lead, Malelang attempted to turn the tides for one last time and tied the game at 19. Filart took the all important match point in the following rally, before closing out the tie and the epic Battle of Katipunan in the Blue and White’s favor, 21–19.

 

The Blue Shuttlers and the Fighting Maroons will face each other again on Wednesday, October 7, in the First Round knockout tie of the step-ladder postseason, 8am at the same venue. The winner of this playoff will face the second-seeded De La Salle University on Saturday, October 10.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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